2020-11-04

MLA seeks stoppage of impaired driving prosecution

by KEITH CORCORAN

There will be a Nova Scotia Supreme Court hearing next year to determine whether Chester-St. Margaret's MLA Hugh MacKay is successful in stopping the prosecution of his newest drunk driving charge before it gets to trial.

MacKay, 66, alleges abuse-of-process by the Crown and seeks to have a stay of proceedings.

His defence lawyer, Don Murray, and Crown prosecutor Kim McOnie, agreed during a Halifax court proceeding October 29 to set aside a half-day in late January for the hearing.

The defence has until early December to file briefs; the Crown has until mid-December. Murray is able to file a reply, if necessary, before the second week of January 2021.

It's also expected a new trial date will be set at some point. The original trial date was December 7 in Halifax.

MacKay, of Glen Haven in Halifax County, is accused of driving in the Stillwater Lake area in November 2018 while impaired by alcohol. Police weren't alerted to the impaired driving complaint until November 2019. The charge was filed in February 2020.

Unless the defence consents to have the Crown proceed on a less-serious type of charge (summarily), the prosecution must move ahead with the more serious type (indictable) because of the amount of time that's passed between the charge filing and alleged offence date.

Earlier this year, a Halifax court was told MacKay wasn't consenting.

The criminal charge against MacKay hasn't been tested in court and he's presumed innocent.

MacKay resigned from the Liberal caucus February 23, choosing to sit as an independent, wanting to reduce "any further disruption to the important work this government is doing," the first-term MLA said in a statement at the time.

The alleged circumstances of his case were hashed out over multiple days in the House of Assembly this year as the opposition hammered the McNeil government about who knew what, when, and how the information was handled within Liberal ranks.

MacKay previously admitted to driving drunk during the 2019 Thanksgiving weekend, capping a booze addiction relapse that lasted months following years of sobriety. He registered blood alcohol readings more than twice the legal limit for a fully-licenced driver, was fined $2,000 and subjected to a one-year Canada-wide driving prohibition.

He previously drew criticism in 2018 for a social media post - later deleted - blaming lifestyle choices, such as "over-consumption of alcohol," for putting a burden on the province's health care system.

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